You always experience something fun and unexpected when sailing.

A few years ago, we were cruising in Croatia during one of our flotillas. We had just visited the moving beach of Zlatni Rat on Brac (pronounced Bratsj), one of the larger islands along the Dalmatian Coast.

Discover Zlatni Rat, most famous beach in Croatia
Zlatni Rat beach, near Bol on Brac Island

Brac is renowned for its white stone and the locals say that stone from their quarries was used for the construction of the White House. I don’t know if it is true, but it makes for a good story.

The beach of Zlatni Rat is a large pebble beach that protrudes from the island into the Hvarski Channel that separates the islands of Brac from Hvar. The beach moves following the tides and currents and basically it sways from East to West with the pebbles rolling back and forth. Quite interesting…

This was Thursday and, the following evening, we had to be back at our base in Kastela, near Split. The flotilla week was almost over. Our plan was to sail along the south coast of Brac through the pass of Splitska Vrata, between the islands of Brac and Solta and then go to the charming small fishing port of Milna on Brac’s west side.

The typical fishing village of Milna
Getting ready for the storm

Unannounced, and not mentioned in the forecast, a storm came up from the northwest and, in a minimum of time, we were heading straight into the wind and the high waves. The three yachts in our flotilla were bucking like broncos. The crew members had donned their foul weather gear and were shivering while we were being pelted by rain and some occasional hail. It was blowing a stink with some gusts exceeding 35 knots.

Squalls are forming

It was getting darker when we fought our way through the Splitska Vrata and we rounded Zaglav point towards Milna where there are three marinas.  We did not have any reservations as, most of the time, you do not need them. You just show up and the dockhands tell you were to dock. Unfortunately, that night, there were no slips available. They had cancelled a sailing race and all the contestants had taken shelter in the three marinas. Anchoring outside was not an option with the weather as the bay in front of the entrance to Milna did not offer any protection.

Google Earth view of Milna, Lucice and Splitzka Vrata pass

A quick look at the charts showed that the closest place with the best protection would be the anchorage of Lucice (pron. Loo-tsjee-tsay). However, to get there, we had to retrace our steps, get back outside in the storm, through Splitska Vrata pass and back in the direction from where we came.  We should see the bay of Lucice on our portside. No way we could miss it and, sure enough, as soon as we turned inside the small bay, the water was flat and we were out of the wind and the storm.

We headed towards the westernmost shore of the bay where we would get the most protection. The charts showed this as a particularly good anchorage but, when we got there, we saw mooring buoys. That would make our lives easier. Our three yachts each picked up a mooring ball and soon a local fisherman came over in his skiff to tell us that we had to pay for the use of the buoys but, if we would eat dinner at the small konoba (restaurant) on-shore, the buoys would be free.

It was already getting late and, after having been cycled and recycled through the Adriatic washing machine, nobody was in the mood to cook on board and soon we headed to shore in our dinghies.

The restaurant was located under the pines and was totally off the grid. An old Cummings generator at the back of the owner’s house was making a racket and provided electricity for the house and the konoba.

The freshest seafood ever…

The kitchen was an open-air grill and all the food was prepared over charcoal. The waiters spoke very little English and there was no menu. They would explain in a mixture of German and English what was available, and it boiled basically down to lamb, fish and scallops. The scallops grilled in their shell on the charcoal were delicious. Unlike in the U.S.A. where you get them cleaned up so that only the white meat remains, in the Mediterranean they serve them with the orange colored corral. It makes a big difference. As far as the fish was concerned, it was still swimming when we picked up our buoys. That fresh…

View over Lucice Bay from the restaurant
It does not get more authentic and rustic…

From what we understood from the waiters, the owner of the restaurant was a retired star soccer player who had his heyday during the Yugoslav Tito years. We were welcome to visit his house and look at all his trophies.

Our host at the Konoba in Lucice

The gentleman, whose name I cannot even recall, met us at the door. He welcomed us in Croatian because he did not speak a word of English of German and, with the help of one of the waiters who could babble a bit in English, he tried to tell his story. We understood that he must have been one of the top players of his times. His house was a shrine to his achievements and there were pictures on the wall of him shaking hands with the likes of Tito and Brezhnev. Too bad we could not communicate better which makes me jump a few years fast forward…

Relaxing the morning after the storm

About three years ago, during another flotilla, and after I had told our participants about this story, we decided to go back to Lucice and show them that same place. It had changed quite a bit. Now they wanted us to pay for the buoys regardless of whether we were going to have dinner at the konoba or not. It seems that the wife of the former star player had taken over the business and she was not exactly customer friendly or, as a matter of fact, not friendly at all. It was a bit of a disappointment but, fortunately, the scenery of the anchorage was still as spectacular as the first time we came here.

We wanted to see the house and the owner again and when I told one of the waiters, who spoke a perfect English, that it had been a pity that we had not been able to communicate with the owner, he told me that he did indeed not speak English or German but was fluent in French. When I met him, I reminded him of our visit a few years ago and we had a good laugh about the fact that, if we had both known at that time, we could have talked in French.

Yep, you should have been there…

Lucice is still one of our favorite anchorages on Brac but, hopefully, the owners of the konoba will get their act together and the business will become again more customer friendly like when we came there the first time.

If it had not been for that storm, we would probably never have discovered its beauty.

Stay safe and healthy!

Capt. Jean De Keyser


Often, Mila (or Millie as I will always call her) and I are being asked how we met. After all, many people have their interest piqued when they see a native from Belgium, married to a cute Peruvian who is – to say it mildly – a few years younger.

Those were the days…

So, without going into too many details, it all started when we volunteered to help during medical missions in a highland city of Huánuco, in Peru. Together with some friends from the Rotary Club of Wheaton, near Chicago, we had started these medical missions to help the poorest of the poor in the Peruvian Sierra. I was in charge of logistics and had hired Mila to assist me. Peruvian by birth but living in Chicago, she was of a tremendous help with our efforts and, much, much later, after many years and failed marriages, we finally hooked up and, as they say, went to the next level of our relationship. This is the story in a nutshell. If you want more details – and, oh boy, there are some fun ones – you will have to get together with us and ply us with lots of quality liquor. So, in the meantime, this is as much as we can tell you in this blog. Verba volant, scripta manent, as the Romans used to say, so we will not put too much in writing…

The Airforce of our little Banana Republic

During these medical missions we saw some horrible and unbelievable situations. Mila and I can spend hours talking about these mission memories. Many of them will still bring tears to our eyes. One of them was quite “tragicomical” and, when we tell people this story, they just stare at us with disbelief.

Mila checking the airplane manifest of the chartered Antonov

It was September of 2000 and this was one of our largest missions ever with over one hundred volunteers. We even had chartered Russian-made Antonov 32 airplanes from the Peruvian Navy. Doctors, nurses and other volunteers had traveled from all over the United States, Canada and Europe to serve their fellow human beings. Our heroes were people like Bill, Claude, Gordie, Mary, Don, Carl, Kurt, Katie, Marion, Efrain, Ken, Sandra and so many more, medical specialists or not. They all flew in at their expense to come and help. The local authorities had put the main hospital, its operating rooms, beds, doctors and nurses at our disposal and we had taken over a small unused clinic as a triage center. Our surgeons and nurses would be working alongside the local ones and show them new techniques and train them on equipment that we had brought along in several shipping containers.

Triage madness

When we arrived, poor people were lining up by the hundreds at the triage center. Some of them had traveled several days from far away places in the mountains and from the jungle, many of them suffering from conditions that you would never see in the United States. None of them would be charged a dime for their surgeries, care or medications.

Patients who came from far away, slept at the gate of the triage clinic.

We had barely scheduled our first surgeries that some of the local doctors – who I was told had some shadowy connections to the former Shining Path – decided to call a strike and told their nurses and hospital workers that they were not allowed to work with us, thus effectively shutting down the hospital and our mission. They considered us competition and feared that we were taking their livelihood away. This was ridiculous because we were going to treat patients that they would never see because these poor people could not pay for their services or because they could not do the kind of surgeries our doctors would perform. On our first day, we would have to pack up again and send everybody back home?

As our missions were coordinated with the local Rotary Club, we had an emergency meeting with their Board. One of their members was the Colonel in charge of the local military base. The role of the local base was to fight the remaining elements of the Shining Path terrorist organization and their allied narco-terrorists. He was a rough looking, no-nonsense dude who had overseen some really nasty counter-terrorism campaigns. He got up and told our group that, as the political-military Chief of the region (El Jefe Politico Militar), he could declare the state of emergency and force the hospital to remain open.

Commandos guarding the gate of the triage clinic

Having no other option, we accepted his offer. It was that or having to disappoint hundreds of suffering patients. A very short time later, he showed up again, accompanied by a truckload of heavily armed commandos and marched inside the hospital, then gathered the rebellious doctors in a room and, behind closed doors, told them in no uncertain terms to get out of town until the end of our campaign, or else. The local hospital workers and nurses were only too happy to be able to work with our volunteers. From there on, we got full speed ahead and started to help the poorest of the poor under the watchful eye of the fierce looking commandos. The place had now been turned into our own “banana republic” with our private army.

Volunteers were overwhelmed by the gratitude of the locals.

Many poor people were helped during that week, and we received so many unbelievable expressions of gratitude. Some patients would bring live chickens as payment, which we, of course, refused. We had so many people hugging us. Reminiscing about this, I can understand the expressions of gratitude our healthcare workers are receiving during this pandemic from their grateful patients.

Gracias Doctorcito!

After a week of hard work – doctors and nurses started at 07:00 and often worked until late in the night – the Colonel wanted to express his appreciation by inviting all the volunteers to the army base for a traditional Pachamanca, the Peruvian equivalent of a Luau. We were bought by bus to the base where the commandos showed us their skills and made a presentation of their training.

Mila tending a typical Pachamanca

There was hand to hand combat with sharp knives, a freeing of hostages from a “terrorist” house and what I called the hot potato training.  About ten commandos were standing waist deep in a circular trench. In the center of the circle a pit had been dug. One of the commandos took a hand grenade, pulled the pin and threw it to the guy next to him in the trench. The recipient took it as a hot potato and threw to the next guy and so on until they had counted down to almost the moment the grenade would blow up. The last soldier holding the grenade then threw it in the pit in the center of the trench and then they all dove down into the trench. The grenade blew up throwing a large amount of dirt and smoke in the air. Thank goodness, we were at a safe distance.

Some tough Dudes…

Another part of the training consisted of coming down, at full speed on a zipline from up the mountain, across the river, down to the camp.  However, this was not your recreational zipline experience.  For one, the soldiers had to hang on for dear life to the pulley going down the line without a safety harness but, when they crossed the river, a dynamite charge was set off showering the poor guy with water, mud and pebbles.  They really had to keep their cool.

The Colonel then asked if some of us wanted to volunteer to come down that zipline.  He promised we would have a safety harness and no dynamite would be blown up. Our fearless “Admiral” Mila was, of course, one of the first ones to volunteer. She went down the river where they brought her to the other side in an inflatable dinghy.  She then had to climb all the way up the slope of the mountain to where the zipline was secured.

Crossing the river to climb to the top of the zipline.

When she got there, however, she saw how far the zipline went down and how steep it was, and she tried to wiggle her way out of this scary experience.  The soldier in charge of zipline told her that, no way, could she go back and there was only one way back to the base; down the cable. She reluctantly put on the harness and stepped to the edge but froze. She just could not make the jump. These commandos don’t put up with any nonsense and before she knew it, he had pushed her, and she went screaming down the cable.  When I say “screaming”, that is exactly how she raced down. When she arrived at the bottom, her legs were shaking but admitted that it was one heck of a thrill.

It certainly must have whetted her appetite as she had many servings of the Pachamanca and quite a few Cusqueña beers.

Commando Mama!

Before we went back to our hotel, we profusely thanked the commandos and their officers for this great experience and for having helped us during the past week with our medical mission. Several of our volunteers posed with the commandos and some even were allowed to hold their weapons.

So, here you have it: how I met Mila and how we had our own banana republic. It would take us another six years before we started dating before finally getting married in 2008. It’s been smooth sailing since.

As the Chinese say: “May you live in interesting times”.  No complaints here.

I know that our recent posts have not had anything to do with sailing.  I promise you some sailing stories in my next posting.

Fair winds, stay healthy and safe. And remember…

Capt. Jean De Keyser.



Dear sailing and non-sailing Friends

If you believe we have it tough here with the movement restrictions imposed by some of our State Governments, read the following news from our “Admiral” who is still stuck in Peru.  Our “lockdowns” are nothing compared to what she has to deal with down there.

First, the no-driving rule remains in effect. No cars on the road. The usually polluted air in Peru’s capital has never been so clean. The water of the Pacific at the Costa Verde beaches is also cleaner than usual and I even saw reports that dolphins are swimming close to shore again.

The surf is up but only for the dolphins! (photo: Andina Agencia Peruana de Noticias)

The curfew has been extended from 18:00 to 05:00. Nobody goes out during curfew or you end up in jail. During the non-curfew hours, you can still go do your shopping, but you must walk and only one person per family can go out.  Venturing out of the house is only allowed during these hours for food, medicine or for an emergency. The curfew regulations regarding the use of the white flag if you need to come out and the speed limit of 20kms – if you really need to drive – also remain in vigor.

Today’s shopping bounty at the grocery store in Lima. I love their white Chocllo corn…

Friday, even more stringent restrictions were implemented. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, only men can go shopping.  Women are only allowed out on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. On Sunday, nobody leaves the house.  When it is your day to go outside, you must wear a mask. Yesterday, quite a few women have tempted their luck and they were promptly arrested.

They take it seriously! (photo: El Comercio)

As the situations in Ecuador and Chile are as bad or (as is the case in Ecuador) even worse, Peru had to call up its military reservists from 2017, 2018 and 2019 to reinforce the military in protecting the borders and to enforce the current regulations. Five thousand reservists and volunteers showed up and three thousand five hundred have already been deployed.

Mila went shopping yesterday and the grocery store opened at 09:00.  She arrived there at 08:50. There were about ten people lined up, all wearing their masks and keeping a distance of about one meter from each other.  She had her little shopping cart with her in which she puts her purchases, mainly non-perishables and meat as there were not too many veggies and fruit available. Everything she touched gets disinfected with alcohol wipes. She is wearing disposable gloves and is now looking for new masks as she has used the last one.

In order to reuse the mask, she washes it with hot soapy water.  The problem with that is that the masks starts “fluffing” and small particles of fluff come off.  So, here she was at the cashier of the grocery store and she inhales one of these fluffy particles that comes lodged in her throat.  She starts coughing and gagging and the cashier retreats in panic thinking she has a virus patient in front of her. Between two coughs, Mila explains the situation and the cashier starts laughing and said that she too did have a similar experience not too long ago.

Let’s party!

Last Monday was her Mom’s birthday. Under normal circumstances, that would have been the occasion for one fun party with lots of friends and relatives. Because of the current events, she celebrated just with her Mom and Dad but many were on line to make it a cyber party…

Let’s cyber party!

We still have no clue when she will be able to come back, so I am stuck north of the Equator in SW Florida. Notwithstanding the Florida “lockdown” which started Thursday at midnight, we can still go out and I spend my days, solving problems for our Med Sailing Adventures customers, keeping up with the rather depressing news, walking around our local marina and dreaming of going back to sailing, hopefully soon. I even replaced an outside faucet so I could wash the car and paid a visit to my sailboat on the hard on the other side of Charlotte Harbor.

Waiting to be “splashed”

Except for the fact that she was dirty from sitting out there, everything on board was in great shape.  I even found a box of nitrile disposable gloves that was left there after an engine cleaning project of last year. Probably worth more than gold right now?

European charter companies hope to salvage part of the season and to open for business again in July, August and September.

We are still hoping to keep our Croatia and Seychelles flotillas going for the later part of the year and will keep you informed.

Mila and I hope you are all safe and healthy and we look forward to sailing with you after this pandemic storm quiets down.

Until then…

Fair winds!

Capt. Jean De Keyser (or as I say to Mila over FaceTime: “Solito y abandonado)…


Hello my Sailing Friends!

I want to share following message from my dear wife, “Admiral” Mila, who is in Corona exile.

As some of you know, I am literally stuck in Lima, Peru. 

I had planned to spend most of the month of March in my beloved birth country to be with my parents for their 80th (Dad) and 70th (Mom) birthdays.  Even though my return trip is scheduled for March 31st, the uncertainty of what will happen next is a bit scary.

People say, “everything happens for a reason”, I have also heard “be careful what you wish for”, and many of us believe “God works in mysterious ways” ….

Jean and I had put together this amazing tour package here in Peru with 5-star hotels, amazing adventure trips and visiting historic sites and museums, scheduled for March 12 through 22.  Luckily (now we know) we had no takers… We do have people lined up for 2021 but no one this year.  What would we have done with some of you here in Peru when the borders were closed? There are over a thousand Americans waiting for our Government to get them back home.  Some lucky ones have already been repatriated. 

A couple of years ago, I realized that I have lived more years than what I have left to live.  Time becomes shorter, and the remaining times is a treasure that you must use and enjoy wisely! 

So, it has been my desire, my wish, to spend as much time as possible with Mom and Dad.  Little did I know that the universe would find a way of fulfilling this wish in the most comical manner.  Peru’s borders are closed until March 31st, but that is not really the main issue.  The curfew (toque de queda) is what makes the stay here a bit challenging. It starts at 8 pm and lasts until 5 am during which time we are not allowed to leave home.  In the event of an emergency you can wave a white flag and drive less than 20 miles per hour with the inside lights on.  Well, I hope we don’t have an emergency because I haven’t driven a stick shift car since 1992!!  Between 5 am and 8 pm, only one member of the household can leave home and then only to get medicine or purchase food.  Not everyone follows these strict rules, but I do.  Mom is 70 and has diabetes and Dad, although in good health, is already 80 years old.  Which brings me to “God works in mysterious ways”.  He made sure that I was here for them.

If I had not made that trip, my parents would have had no one to take care of them.  My Mom is very much involved in the community and every time there is an event, whether it is an accident, death or crime, people literally knock on the door to talk to her.  Well, I am now the “door keeper”, I refuse to open the door, no one can talk to her, they have to call ?.  Call me crazy, but if that is what I need to do to minimize the risk of contamination of my parents, I will!

I am also the “personal shopper”.  We are not allowed to drive, so we must walk to the local market.  Since I am minimizing the times that I leave home, I must buy as much as possible, but I can only buy as much as I can carry.  I am grateful that I am here to do this for Mom and Dad! 

 I want you all to know that even though I am far away from Jean, my boys and my sister and her family, I know I am in the right place right now.  I am not suffering; I am happy and trying to make the best out of it!  Will keep you posted and please STAY HOME.  As I told the kids “this is not about being the strongest, this is about caring for the weakest

Stay safe and healthy!

We will keep you posted with more news!

Fair winds!

Capt. Jean De Keyser


Happy Spring!  Officially we are in Spring although the weather here in Chicago must not be aware of it yet but, after all, it is Chicago…

The world is going crazy and we cannot take anything for granted anymore. This Covid-19 virus is wreaking havoc on our society and, whatever our Government, talking heads and other pundits may say, we cannot even foresee the consequences for the medium-long future. By the way and at the risk of being considered non-politically correct, I also call it the Chinese or Wuhan virus.  I do not see anything racist in that term.  Ten days ago, I went to a Chinese restaurant to eat Chinese food. It was Sichuan cuisine and not Wuhan or Hunan but still it was Chinese…

However, somewhere in the back of my head, the history of the Mayan and other cultures pop up.  At the height of their civilization, they suddenly disappeared, and we are wondering what may have happened to them. What caused that civilization to implode?  What catastrophic event made the Mayas vanish so quickly?  Another society that fell into ruin like that was the fascinating Moche culture of coastal northern Peru but, in that case, we now know that this was caused by several debilitating El Niño weather events so we can only wonder if something like that could happen to our way of life.

In less complicated days sailing in Croatia

Talking about Peru, this brings me to how the current events are affecting my Peruvian wife, Mila, and myself.

Well, as far as I am concerned, I am self-quarantined in my condo here in the Chicago suburbs. Fortunately, I am healthy, but I only go out to do my shopping.  We are all social-distancing (a new term that will certainly be printed in the next edition of the Webster’s Dictionary) and I take all necessary precautions. I am still planning on going to our place in Florida later this month but will see in the next few days if that will even be feasible.

Dear Mila had, several months ago, decided to go back this month to her native Peru to visit her parents who both happen to have their birthdays in March.  She would be gone the whole month and return on March 31 in Miami where I would pick her up.

Peruvian Army enforcing lock-down (AFP via Getty Images)

Well, that is obviously not likely to happen.  The Peruvian Government has closed the borders, and nobody comes in or goes out.  Like many hundreds of other U.S. citizens, she is stuck in Peru. Her situation is not as bad as that of the tourists, many of whom have no place to stay because most hotels have closed their doors. They have no way of coming back and the U.S. Government is looking into sending military planes to Lima to repatriate them.  Mila is staying with her parents in Lima and they too are self-quarantining.  She stays in a small apartment on the second floor of her parent’s house and only goes out to go shopping.  The lock-down in Peru is very heavily enforced with army and police in the streets.  You cannot drive a car unless you have a written permission.  Kids who were playing soccer outside were handcuffed and dragged to jail.  There is a “Toque de Queda” or curfew from 8:00PM to 5:00AM and that too is very strictly enforced with very heavy penalties. You can only go out for emergencies.

At least she has some liquid comfort to help her through this

She is the only one in the household who goes to the market and does the shopping.  She does not want her eighty year-old father – although in excellent health – and her mother, who has some health issue, to go outside.

Basically, we have no idea when she will be back in the USA.  It could be weeks or months. On one hand, I would like to have her come back to the States on one of the planned military flights but, on the other hand, she is pretty safe with her parents.

Either solution is not ideal.

If she comes back with a military airlift, she will have to mingle with many hundreds of other people some of whom may be sick.  They would arrive in the USA and probably be put in quarantine on a military base, like the cruise ship passengers.  The advantage would be that she would be back with excellent medical attention if needed.

If she stays there, we will have no clue when the Peruvian Government would allow the borders to reopen to normal traffic.  It could be months. Of course, she could take care of her parents and remain in self-isolation but, should she get sick, she could be in trouble as her medical insurance does not cover care in a foreign country.  The other problem I can see is that she might not be able to access her money in the USA anymore if the banks and ATMs do not work any longer in Peru.  Because everybody is locked down, the Internet has seen a huge increase of usage and is slowing down, and Mila also noticed that the water pressure is decreasing.

Right now, we communicate by text messaging and by WhatsApp which allows us to see each other “live” (and alive) and hear each other’s voice but I cannot wait to see her smiling face back on U.S. soil.

I will keep you informed of developments affecting her situation in Peru.

By the way, due to the current situation and uncertainty, we will be canceling (or rescheduling) our flotillas in Turkey, Mallorca, Tuscany and Sardinia. Let’s hope this will blow over soon.

Be safe and stay healthy!

Capt. Jean De Keyser.


It was Monday, September of 2013 and we were docked at the seawall of Komiza on the island of Vis. The weather was great and life was good.

Picturesque Komiza with its waterfront and fortress

Komiza is this “beyond-adorable” fishing village on the southwestern side of the island. It is located at the end of a large bay and at the foot of the imposing Hum mountain. A fort built to protect the village from pirates is one of the main tourist attractions and houses a fishing museum.

One of our regular destinations in Croatia, Komiza is also my favorite place for excellent pizza and beer in one of the several affordable restaurants on the waterfront. I should also not forget to mention the unbelievable gelato’s…

Overlooking the bay of Komiza

So, here we were docked at the seawall and next to us was another charter boat with an all-male Croatian crew. They had set up a small grill on the quay and were grilling tiny sausages that smelled mouthwatering deliciously. While they were preparing their food, they were taking numerous shots of a clear liquor from a bottle that contained a fully grown pear.

Needless to say, we had to strike up a conversation. Two of them spoke perfect English and told me that they were high school friends who had left Yugoslavia when, in the mid-nineties, the country was falling apart. Some of them left for the United States, others to Germany or Italy and, after all these years, they had decided on a reunion in their old country, which is now Croatia. As they always had sailed together when they were young, they wanted to make their get-together a sailing vacation.

Of course, we traded many shots of their pear schnapps with ones from our vodka bottle and they had me taste the finger licking good little sausages called Cevapcici (Che-vap-chi-chi). I order them at restaurants when in Croatia and I love them accompanied with ajvar and fries. Sometimes, when I get an uncontrollable urge for them, I will make them here in the USA and put them on the grill or on the plancha.

If you want to get an idea of how good these cevapcici sausages are, but if you do not have a Balkan-style restaurant close to you or (even worse) you cannot accompany us on our next trip to Croatia, here is my recipe.

You will need:

  • half a pound of ground lamb
  • about one and a half pounds of ground pork or mild Italian sausage
  • one pound of lean ground beef
  • three or four garlic cloves to taste, minced
  • about one teaspoon salt or more to taste
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • cayenne pepper to taste
  • a dash of paprika
  • one finely chopped onion
  • one egg white

Mix all the ingredient in a large non-reactive bowl and let rest for a few hours in a cool place to have the mixture thoroughly absorb all the flavors. Form the meat mixture in little sausage of about two and halve inches long and three quarters of an inch think. Cevapcici sausages do not have casings and are really easy to make.

Grill them on a BBQ or on a plancha griddle at medium-high heat for about 30 minutes, turning them frequently and eat them with ajvar, a typical Balkan spread that you can find in the international food sections of major grocery stores, like Pete’s Market and Caputo’s in the Chicagoland area. If you can’t find it, you can easily make it yourself.

Mixed grill with ajvar (the red paste) and cevapcici (the small casingless sausages on the upper right plate). Croatia is for sailors and foodies.

You will need:

  • six red bell peppers
  • one medium eggplant
  • three generous tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • at least three chopped garlic cloves (but more if you really like it garlicky)
  • freshly ground pepper and salt to taste
  • a dash of vinegar
  • cayenne pepper to taste (if you like your ajvar hot)
  • a tablespoon of red wine vinegar
  • one teaspoon of sugar

Cut the bell peppers and the eggplant in half and put them face down in a hot oven (450F / 232C) until the skins are roasted and blistered. Let them cool down then peel the peppers and discard the skins, scoop up the flesh out of the eggplant and discard the skin. Put all the ingredients in a food blender until well mixed and voila! Your ajvar is ready…

Ajvar is often called the caviar of the poor man. It is healthy and tasty. You can eat it with your cevapcici while dreaming that you are in Croatia, cruising the crystal clear waters with us, or you can also use it as a dip, spread it on a toast, try it as a pizza sauce. Whatever way you use it, you will love it…

More flotilla food stories and travel adventures to follow in my next blog.

Fair Winds and Bon Appétit.

Capt. Jean De Keyser

Med Sailing Adventures



I don’t know about you all, but I was starting to get overwhelmed and worried by all the news about the Corona Virus. Granted, we do not know the real extend of what is happening on the ground in China because the government there is so secretive and controlling, but the media here are bombarding us with scary news of new cases popping up all over the world, like Iran and Italy.

Are Corona Virus and Gravity are infecting the Tower of Pisa? Let’s not give the Media any ideas.

Obviously, I am not planning to go visit Tehran any time soon but my 2020 plans do include Tuscany among many other tourist destinations and, if you listen to the news, you get the depressing impression that a devastating black plague equivalent is descending on poor Italy.

So, I was kind of agreeably relieved to find this interview of TV personality, Dr. Drew, who took the media hype heads-on. It made a lot of sense if you put things in perspective. Yes, from a media point of view, the Corona Virus (with ZERO deaths to this date in the United States) is way more sexy than reporting on the current flu epidemic in this country that has already killed 16,000 people this season.

I do not trust the numbers from China but South Korea’s numbers should be realistic. They show 1,766 reported cases with 13 deaths. These casualties are mainly patients with poor immunity.

I contacted some of our charter partners overseas and asked them for their opinion and none of them are really worrying a lot. The Veneto region in Italy, which counts over 5 million people had 70 people infected. That is less than 0,0014% of the population. This link shows the statistics of the winter fever in Italy in the last years. Every winter between 5M to 8M of people get sick and around 400 die, mainly exposed children under 5 years-old and people over 70. These numbers are in line with EU statistics.

Therefore, when looking at the situation from that angle, I do not intend to change my overseas travel plans for the time being. I will get my usual travel insurance to cover any eventualities but that is about it.

As Dr. Drew said, the media should shut up and not overblow the situation for ratings purposes. Anyone remembers the Washington Apples Alar scare of 1989 and the unnecessary immense damage that was caused to the growers by the hype from the media and their need for sensationalism?

Just my two cents…


(Photo: Getty Images/Saxifrag)

There has been a lot of news popping up on the subject of NOAA’s decision to no longer publish printed navigation charts.

I received this morning this article from BOAT US and thought it would be useful to share it with my sailing friends.

You can also find more information on this subject directly on the NOAA website. It explains in great details what you can expect during the paper chart sunset period ending in 2025.

The nice thing about the new print-on-demand and ENC charts is that they will be up-to-date. That could have avoided me running aground last year when entering Big Sarasota Pass. Where 8′ of water was shown on the chart, my keel hit bottom in 4′ of water. Very embarrassing… When we finally got off and got into the channel, I notice that green marker 11 was actually on dry land.

Talking about paper charts, I am probably just as guilty as many of you to rely too much on the electronics on a yacht rather than on paper charts. But what happens when the electronics go down? When coastal cruising, do you still practice triangulating your position using fixed points? Do you even still know how to do it? Do you still practice D.R. using navigation charts?

Granted, when chartering in the Med, I use electronics more than paper charts because, a lot of times, either some charts are missing or they are in such awful shape that they have become useless. Thank Goodness for the Navionics and Navily apps on my cell phone…

Happy Sailing!

Capt. Jean De Keyser


Sailing is one of those activities that always let you meet and get to know interesting people. Our friend Dennis and his lovely wife, Bise, in Vis are two of them.

“Admiral” Mila, Dennis, his wife, Bise, and the “Captain”.

We got to know Dennis when we docked for the first time at the island of Vis in Croatia, over eleven years ago.

We brought our chartered Jeanneau 49i sailboat to the quay, stern first, for a Mediterranean mooring and threw Dennis, who was the dock hand on duty, our stern docking lines. He gave us the lazy lines that we would attach to the bow cleats. There was a very short stone finger pier on the port side of the yacht and one of our crew members got in an argument with Dennis because she insisted on having a spring line to that finger pier.

Picturesque Vis Harbor.

Dennis kept on saying that it was not necessary and that with the stern docking lines and the lazy lines at the bow we would be just fine. With the fenders along the side, the yacht was totally secure. No overkill required…

The discussion became more heated and, as captain, I had to tell the crew member, who is a dear friend of mine, to tone it down. Once we were safely docked, I gave Dennis the boat documents, as is customary in Croatia, and apologized for the ruckus. He was very gracious about it and we chatted a bit. He mentioned that he and his wife had started a small Konoba or restaurant in their vineyard in the mountains of the island. Would we be interested in going there?

When it comes to food and wine, you can always count me in and we made arrangements for him to pick us up a bit later.

Bay of Vis at sunset.

About one hour later, we boarded a beaten up van and headed up the mountain. The road zig-zagged up allowing us to have a great view over the harbor and the city below. We arrived at the vineyard and had to hike our way down from the road to the small establishment that they had recently opened and were welcomed by Dennis’ wife, Bise, a jovial Croatian women, and by her little daughter, Marina, who must not have been more than four years old and by Bise’s sister Dinka.

Sampling the homemade brandies of Konoba Magic.

We were treated to a phenomenal traditional Dalmatian meal. Zucchini flowers stuffed with cheese and then deep fried, shark carpaccio, marinated sardine and anchovy fillets, local cheese and more delicious appetizers followed by a fabulous lamb stew dish called Peka. Big chunks of lamb with vegetables and potatoes are put in a deep round dish which is then shoved into a very hot hearth and covered by a heavy steel dome covered with hot ashes. After two hours, one of the most delicious lamb dishes you can imagine is served with a never ending supply of Dennis’ own white and red wines. Let us not forget the home made brandies infused with a variety of herbs…

Peka pots in the open fire.

Over the years, Konoba Magic (pronounced Magitz) has grown and has become one of the more popular restaurants on the island. We return religiously every year with our flotilla crew members. It is an annual gastronomical pilgrimage for us and we are always welcomed with open arms by Bise, Dennis and their parents. The restaurant is family operated and Maika (or grandma) is the Chef in the kitchen. She prepares all the meals from scratch while Juraj tends to the fire in the open hearth and makes sure that the Pekas are kept covered by the hot embers.

The finished product; fall-off-the bone finger-licking delicious with wine from the vineyard!

Dennis and Bise have become very successful and have benefited a lot financially thanks to their hard work. Dennis does not work as a dock hand any longer. We follow them on Facebook and are always very happy for them when we see them spending their winters in exotic places like Thailand and South Beach. When we first met them, their English was quite poor. Nowadays, we hear them discuss their menus in Italian, German and English with their ever increasing number of happy customers.

Tito’s abandoned Cold War secret torpedo boat base. Very James Bond-like.

Dennis is a great guy and he will gladly share his knowledge of the fascinating history of the island. Vis has always been very strategic real estate during its history and especially during WWII and the post-war Tito years, when it was off-limits to outsiders. It is replete with abandoned fortifications, hidden tunnels and a formerly top-secret torpedo boat base. Dennis can tell you all about these places, but the history of Vis goes way back to even before the Greeks and the Phoenicians and you will readily find remnants from Roman and Byzantine times. Vis was also the setting for the “Greek” island in Mama Mia II.

The Wikipedia page is a must-read and is chock-full of interesting facts about this scenic island and its fascinating history.

If you ever go to Croatia, make it a point to go to Vis, either on a sailing yacht or by regular ferry from Split, and go look up Dennis and Bise at Konoba Magic. Tell them that we sent you and not onnly will you be treated like royalty but you will go home with an unforgettable memory of a unique gastronomic experience.

Fair Winds!

Capt. Jean De Keyser




Here we were… sailing along in the Bay of Kastela, Croatia, about two miles out of the charter base during a fun flotilla week, when one of the crew members asked us to do a man overboard drill.

There are, of course, several ways to recover a person overboard and, as the waters were pretty calm and the wind around 10 knots, we decided on the figure eight method.

After I had explained the procedure and assigned the duties to be assumed by each crew member, a fender, which we named Bob, went overboard. We immediately started the drill and we quickly recovered Bob. Crew was happy, skipper was happy and everything was just textbook perfect.

We resumed our normal sailing until, a few minutes later, I saw something floating about 50 meters from the boat. A small doll bobbing face down. I yelled “Man overboard” and told the crew we were going to rescue the doll.

This time we made a perfect Quick Stop recovery and soon the doll was on board. Double whammy as it was a plastic doll. Plastic removal and doll recovery at the same time.

Somewhere in Croatia a little girl cried over her lost doll

The doll was a little boy in blue pajama pants and with an orange shirt and it was pretty grimy from having spent a few days in the water. We cleaned him up, baptized him Swee’Pea after Popeye’s son and adopted him as our official Med Sailing Adventures mascot. He now accompanies us on all our flotillas and, although somewhere in Croatia a little girl cried for having lost her doll, Swee’Pea has become the consummate world traveler and sailor.

The ladies adore Swee’Pea…

He is adored by our crew members, especially the women who dote over him, but raising this kid is quite a challenge as he has been known to experiment with underage drinking…

What shall we do with the drunken sailor?

Nonetheless, Swee’Pea is just an adorable part of our flotilla crews. He accompanies on shore tours and we never have a lack of volunteers willing to carry him.

Swee’Pea gets around…

You too can share Swee’Pea’s adventures by joining one of our Med Sailing Adventure flotillas. Check us out a or contact us at

He will even help you with the sail trim
Swee’Pea is part of the sailing family!

Fair Winds,

Capt. Jean & “Admiral” Mila


All these wonderful destinations that we are so privileged to visit have fascinating attractions that we can discover during our flotillas.

Take, the island of Elba for instance, one of the gems of the Tuscan coast of Italy and one of our favorite places to sail.

Elba is nothing short of spectacular. Beautiful ports each with their own interesting history, crystalline waters, gorgeous nature, this place has it all.

Etruscan, Greeks, Phoenicians, Romans and many others have left their imprint on Elba’s history. During the antiquity, the Etruscan and Romans mined the iron ore on the island. Later on in history, Elba was governed by the Republic of Pisa, the Republic of Genoa, Spain, even France and Britain.

The view from Napoleon’s home in exile. Why would you leave this place to get defeated in Waterloo?

Its main claim to fame was that Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled there after he lost the Battle of Leipzig. During his short stay there, he even designed the flag of the island, featuring his personal symbol, the bee.

Napoleon’s Flag of Elba with his bee symbol.

In my humble opinion, he should have stayed on Elba. He had a nice house assigned to him in Portoferraio and could have had a quiet retirement but he decided to return to France and got eventually clobbered in Waterloo. I am sure that his final exile on the island of St. Helena, where he died, was not as agreeable as on Elba.

Portoferraio, is a lovely city with interesting museums and many restaurants that serve delicious authentic local cuisine. An impressive fortress protects the entrance to the municipal marina.

Portoferraio and its Municipal Marina

Porto Azzurro is another attractive port with a very nice marina in the Golfo di Mora. It is protected by two fortresses built by the Spaniards. One that is still used as a jail today was built on the same blueprints as the citadel of my native city, Antwerp in Belgium. Unfortunately, the one in Antwerp does not exist anymore. The waterfront along the port is home to plenty of good restaurants but the visitor should also go discover the charming inner city. Don’t forget to stop at Zero Gradi on the main square facing the port. You will enjoy some of the best gelato in Italy.


Another interesting place is Marciana Marina on the north side of the island. It boasts a large fortified tower in the well protected port and, like Porto Azzurro, has a pleasant center of the city with excellent restaurants.

Fortified tower of Marciana Marina, built during the reign of the Republic of Pisa

When we dock our yachts in Marciana Marina with our flotillas, we make it a point to go into the mountains to the old city of Marciana which dates back to the Romans. It is definitely worth a visit. From there it is a short hike to the cable lift to Monte Capanne, the highest point of Elba 1,019 meters above sea level. What a view from up there!

Elba has so much more to offer, like beautiful beaches and resorts that will welcome sun worshipers for a relaxing vacation but, as far as I am concerned, a sailing trip offers the best perspective to discover this wonderful place in the Mediterranean.

For more information on how to join a sailing flotilla to Elba, contact us at

Fair Winds and Happy Travels!

Capt Jean De Keyser

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